Milkweeds for Monarchs!


Gail Napora and her eye catching Monarch display at Harrisonburg’s Blacks Run CleanUp in April.

Once a bright and sure sign of autumn, monarch butterflies are now in worrisome decline. Scientists have tracked their decreasing numbers for several years. A recent study showed the lowest ever population of migrating eastern monarchs.

A number of factors have contributed to the decline of the monarch butterfly. Here in the United States, industrialized farming involving wide scale spraying of pesticide that kills all vegetation but the food crops modified to be immune to it is a major factor. We are losing high percentages of the native flora, especially milkweeds, which monarchs need to survive, in favor of homogenized landscapes. Farms growing only one crop and non-native green spaces such as lawns and pesticide-treated roadways, contribute to the problem.

In Mexico, deforestation, especially illegal logging, contributes to the habitat loss of monarch butterflies and reduces their numbers.

Additionally, severe weather such as extreme cold and drought has been identified as a factor leading to the loss of monarchs.

Carefully prepared milkweed seeds ready for dissemination!

Carefully prepared milkweed seeds ready for dissemination!

We can help as individuals by using less pesticides and growing our own milkweed to welcome back the monarchs.

To that end, the Headwaters Chapter has been spreading the word on the plight of the Monarch and passing out potted milkweeds seeds at area events this spring as a special outreach project. We hope to extend our efforts into a 2014/2015 Chapter Focus Project.

The HMN Projects Committee under the guidance of committee chair Sandy Greene began planning this year’s special Monarch outreach last fall.

  • Betty Forrest hosted a fridge full of locally harvested common milkweed seeds all winter as a means of “vernalizing” them in preparation for spring planting.
  • RoxAnna Theiss developed an attractive and informative instructional mini-trifold to accompany each peat pot of planted milkweed seeds for distribution.
  • Chris Bowlen provided potting soil and expertise and hosted potting parties.
  • Gail Napora was solicited to design and produce the artful display boards with matching table designs and t-shirts (!) for use at the event tables. Find out more about Gail and her many talents in this feature article about her on page 3 of the October 2012 issue of JMU LLI’s newsletter The Explorer.
  • Sandy, RoxAnna, Gail, Teresa Townsend, Pat Martin and others spent their time, and social and naturalist skills at four area environmental events to share their work:

Thanks to Stephanie Gardner for her contributions to this post!

More about monarchs and milkweeds at